The Toronto Youth Food Policy Council is the first Youth voice among North America’s over 100 Food Policy Councils.
A Food Policy Council generally has four functions – serving as forums for discussing food issue, fostering coordination between sectors in the food system, evaluating and influencing sustainable food policy, and, supporting programs and services that address local needs. While the number of Food Policy Councils continues to increase, this model despite its successes, has neglected to represent the voices of those who will carry the burdens of our unjust food system into the future – Youth!
As a group of food passionate youth, we will continue to create routes of agency for our peers within Toronto municipal food policy sector and become a hub for our City’s many young people who care about the future of their food supply. We wholeheartedly believe that our actions as a Food Policy Council by and for youth will not only impact the future of food for generations to come, but will also increase youth participation in food-related discourse.
Food has the unique ability to unite us all; its consumption is a political act that the privileged majority of North Americans take part in at least three times a day. Food is a cause for celebration, but when its bounty is denied, it can lead to hunger and pain. Its production and distribution require a great deal of knowledge, but yet, control of our food supply is becoming increasingly centralized and contaminated.
In a city as diverse as Toronto, food realities differ among and between ethnicities, income levels, gender and of course, age. For example, a newcomer to Toronto may be focused on finding a community which shares his or her cultural food preferences, while a family living below the poverty line may be struggling to feed their family nutritious food in a neighborhood of convenience stores. Despite the complexity of problems in our cities’ food system, the TYFPC collectively believes in a food ‘system’ which meets and satisfies the unique food needs of its demographic – youth. According to our mission statement, the TYFPC supports the development of a sustainable, accessible, affordable, nutritious, appropriate, fairly-traded and regionally-focused food system. To us, when these needs are met, ‘food-security’ is achieved.
The Toronto Youth Food Policy Council believes that Food Issues are Youth Issues. For example, the average farmer in Ontario is in his mid-50’s, while only 9% of Ontario’s farmers are below the age of 35. No matter how strong the urban infrastructure, the sprawling city of Toronto cannot support itself on a regionally based food system if there are no new farmers. According to the Daily Bread Food Bank, in 2009 35% of Toronto’s food bank users are below the age of 18. That is a significant number of children and teenagers who soon will be fending for and feeding themselves. In addition, the proliferations of processed foods, marketing and generational food deskilling have led sky rocketing rates of obesity, food allergies and Type 2 Diabetes.
The TYFPC formed to address these issues and give youth agency through a seat at the municipal food policy table. Since our incorporation September 2009, the TYFPC has been helping to fuel the fire behind the youth-led food movement. We are also proud to report that there is a line-up of young people just waiting to make a meaningful contribution!